Complete Guide To The Schipperke: Health, Personality, Feeding and More

A fearless watchdog and dogged ratter, the Schipperke is a mischievous but delightful rogue. Petite but proud, these dainty dogs from Belgium are more than they appear.

You might not have seen a Schipperke before given that they’re ranked in the middle of the popularity list for the AKC. I’ve met a handful in my veterinary career and they are quite distinctive and memorable once you’ve met one.

How Big Do Schipperkes Get?

Male11″ – 13″ at the shoulder12-16 lbs
Female10″ – 12″ at the shoulder11-14 lbs

What Can Schipperkes Look Like?

The Schipperkes’ small stature belies their rugged build. They’re thickset and muscular under billows of black fur. Alert, erect ears top a coy, fox-like muzzle and dark, piercing eyes. Tails are docked at birth except in countries where it’s prohibited, but some dogs are born with a bobtail.

The only acceptable color for AKC-registered Schipperkes is solid black. However, The United Kennel Club recognizes a range of shades, including brown, blonde, tan and tricolor. Although they’re not part of the Spitz family, they’re easily mistaken for the Pomeranian.

What Is The Personality Of A Schipperke?

Schipperkes are bright, curious and confident. Loyal and affectionate, they prefer constant human companionship, but they have minds of their own and aren’t afraid to use them. Humility isn’t their strong suit.

Ideal for the apartment life, they’re dedicated explorers with a nose for trouble, so puppy-proofing their space is a must. Impulsive, they’re known to ignore owners when they call, so outdoor activities require a leash or a secure, fenced-in area.

Despite their cheeky personalities, their joie de vivre is a pleasure to behold. Like kids, they know how to have fun. Early training, consistent reinforcement and patience are the keys to a rewarding, lifelong partnership.

How Much Exercise Does A Schipperke Need?

Schipperkes are energetic and need to be kept busy. Bored dogs will bark, chew and dig. Giving them room to roam is essential, but they’ll run laps indoors or out and require no special accommodations.

Favorite activities are long walks and games with their families. Bred to hunt rats, they enjoy a good chase, so keep balls handy. Given the right toys, they’re independent enough to entertain themselves but need human interaction — give them 20-30 minutes per day.

How Much Grooming Does A Schipperke Need?

The Schipperke’s thick, double coat needs remarkably little care. The coarse texture of their fur is naturally soil- and tangle-resistant. They shed, however, year-round and seasonally, so the more often you brush, the less often you’ll vacuum.

Pin brushes are ideal for weekly grooming, removing surface debris. A monthly go-over with a slicker or shedding tool helps thin the undercoat and minimizes hair in your home. Bathing dogs with thick coats can be challenging — they take longer to dry than to wash — but a shampoo every three months goes a long way toward reducing shedding.

Schipperkes aren’t prone to ear infections, but a monthly check is a good precaution. Always on the move, their nails may stay trim naturally, but if you hear them click, it’s time to clip.

Most Schipperke owners handle grooming chores at home, but some suggest an annual trip to the groomer toward the end of shedding season ends messy blowouts faster and refreshes their skin for summer.

What Is The Best Dog Food For A Schipperke?

Most small kibble dry dog foods will be suitable for a Schipperke . This particular breed has pretty large teeth so as long as the kibble isn’t too large it should be fine.

Grain-free diets are a myth. Please do not feed your dog a grain-free diet unless there are specific food allergies that would benefit from a grain-free diet. Always consult your veterinarian before you decide to make any major diet changes.

Some good brands that I recommend include:

I usually tend to go with the bigger dog food companies because of the amount of time and money they have to research and test their products. They also have a stronger history of safe foods (very rarely will they have recalls) over the newer, more boutique-style dog foods.

It is important always to give your dog high-quality dog food. Monitor the number of treats and “people food” you give your dog to keep him healthy and fit. Keeping your dog at a healthy weight is the best and easiest way to extend the life of your Schipperke. 

How Long Does A Schipperke Live?

12-14 years

What Health Problems Can A Schipperke Have?

These little dogs have the same risk of certain diseases as many other small breeds. These include:

  • Luxating Patella
  • Obesity
  • Dental Disease

I find that Schipperkes can easily become obese when the owner isn’t watching closely enough. The coat can really hide a few extra pounds on a dog this small very easily. However, those few pounds can be a big deal.

There is a new disease that some Schipperke owners and breeders are seeing that is concerning. It’s called Mucopolysaccharidosis type IIIB or MPS-IIIB. This disease usually is first seen in dogs 2-4 years of age as ataxia, head tremors, or balance problems. Sadly there is no treatment for MPS-IIIB and usually requires euthanasia within a few years of signs beginning to the the progressive nature of the problem.

There is a genetic test for the disease so make sure, if you’re getting a puppy, that your breeder has screened the parent dogs for this issue. Also consider this test in any rescued Schipperke.

Where Can I Learn More About Schipperkes?

Schipperke Club of America

AKC Breed Page

Where Can I Find A Schipperke?

Contact the Schipperke Club of America first – they have a liaison who will guide you towards the right breeder for the kind of dog that you want. This is a great way to be guided to a quality breeder.

Maybe you’d like to rescue a Schipperke? There’s a list of Rescues here that can hopefully help you provide a needy dog with a new home.

Interesting Facts About the Schipperke

Schipperkes were once ubiquitous in Belgian dockyards, but here are a few facts you may not know about Brussels’ “little skipper.”

They’re Sheepdogs

Schipperkes so strongly resemble Spitz dogs that most people assume they’re related to the Keeshond, Norwegian Elkhound and Samoyed, but they’re not. Surprisingly, they’re descendants of the much larger Leauvenaar, a Belgian sheepdog. At the time, it was illegal for peasants to own large dogs, so over time, they selectively bred the Leauvenaar down in size to handle their herding and ratting chores.

• They’re Friendly with People, But Beware of Other Dogs

Schipperkes are friendly with most folks. Watchful, they’ll sound the alert as the sight of a stranger but they’re rarely aggressive with humans. With supervision, they’re trustworthy with children and like making new friends, but they’re wary of unfamiliar dogs and may see small pets as prey.

• Famous Fans

Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz were dog lovers and fans of the Schipperke. It was love at first sight at a dog show where they first met the dapper darlings. Soon, they adopted a female named Ginger that accompanied Lucy wherever she went — even on the set.

• What’s in a Name?

People pronounce Schipperke differently based on the grammar rules in their countries. In the West, most say “Skip-er-kee.” But the correct pronunciation, per Belgian enthusiasts, is “Sheep-er-ker” — an appropriate moniker given their origin.